Terrorism is an evil we can see and fear, unlike more insidious evils. After a terrorist attack, the media instantly portrays dead bodies and grieving families. We are angered, as we should be. We pass legislation for a strong military and sometimes send our armies to foreign countries to fight terrorists.
Other evils are harder to grasp because the results may not show up until years later: inferior schools or inadequate mental health facilities or lack of drug rehabilitation services.
Though most of us would say we believe in “good” schools, we don’t instantly see the damage to our country of a poorly educated work force.
Unless we have a mentally ill family member, we may think of mental illness only when we quickly pass by a troubled street person.
Throwing young drug offenders in prison is less costly than providing rehabilitation and job training for them—in the beginning.
What if we had not decided to invade Iraq after we were already involved in a war in Afghanistan? What if we had invested the money we spent for that war in schools and job training?
What if we had invested more in mass transit and less on securing oil fields in the unstable Middle East?
Going further back into our history, what if early settlers in Virginia had not decided to use slaves to work their tobacco fields? Suppose they had kept to small farms instead of large plantations?
We pay later for those easy choices, sometimes generations later.